HOUSTON - Plenty of Texans made their mark over the course of 27 outs in the final game of the 2018 Winter Invitational at Minute Maid Park and each one added up to an emotional bounce-back win for Tarleton Sunday night.
"The pace of this game and the pace of our team tonight was much more like the Texan Baseball teams that we're accustomed to being a part of," said head coach Bryan Conger. "They were resilient and tough and they showed that tonight."
The LSC Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Nathan Hickey, made his season debut and gave the Texans five innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He gave way to Connor Flanagan, who worked a clean sixth inning to send the game into the seventh with the Rattlers clinging to a 2-1 lead. Tarleton's lone run of the first seven innings came on a Luis Rivashome run to lead off the fifth.
In the bottom of the seventh, St. Mary's extended its lead to 3-1 and threatened for more with the bases loaded and two outs with pinch-hitting senior Bryce Brandl at the plate.
Conger went to the bullpen and turned to lefty Trent Stafford for his collegiate debut and the redshirt sophomore delivered by freezing Brandl with a full-count fastball for strike three to escape the jam and keep things at 3-1.
"Trent came in and did a tremendous job," said Conger. "To make your first appearance at the NCAA level in a big-league park with the bases loaded in a big situation and strike that young man out was absolutely phenomenal. The momentum of the game changed with that at bat. The momentum of the dugouts completely changed in that moment."
Tarleton and St. Mary's will be each other's next opponents as the teams will meet in San Antonio for a three-game series next weekend, starting on Friday.